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That's and Was's

Posted: September 7th, 2012, 11:55 pm
by klbritt
I'm working on my first revisions for my MS, and have the prologue up through chapter 4 edited for grammar, punctuation, phrasing and the like. I'm now going through and picking out unnecessary words and realizing how much I use passive words. Ug.

So, I thought it would be fun to make a list of all the words you use way too much in your writing (maybe we can all use as much help as I do).

So far, mine are:


I've edited my that's and have started on the was's...but I think I'm going to skip to the feel's for a while :lol:

Re: That's and Was's

Posted: September 9th, 2012, 11:49 am
by Sanderling
I'll be honest and admit I don't actually edit for these things usually, even though I know I should. (Hangs head; bad writer.) I'm pretty good about 'just' as I'm writing; the instances I use it are generally ones where I feel it's necessary. Same with 'was'. I do use 'that' (in its usage parallel to 'which') often and could probably remove these without losing anything, though I also think just leaving them doesn't detract from anything.

I'm not very good at noticing my own writerly tics. It was pointed out to me recently that I do a lot of qualifying. Stuff such as "seemed", "looked like", "felt like", "appeared to be", etc. I have a nature blog and since I'm rarely an expert on any of the subjects I post about I tend to qualify stuff there a lot to cover my ass, so I wonder if it's rubbed off on my fiction...

Re: That's and Was's

Posted: September 9th, 2012, 3:34 pm
by polymath
Prepositions that have other parts of speech uses, like as conjunctions, adverbs, adjectives, and sometimes pronouns and nouns, excepting only interjections; for example, still, used in fuzzy ways, drive me around the bend when used in prose writing. They are connective tissue for academic writing and common in everyday conversation. Prose should be more accessible and appealing than academic writing. And prose should be more exciting than routine, everyday conversation.

Superlative, conditional, and irrealis mood adjectives and adverbs also make for fuzzy, static meaning.

I spend twice as long or longer, up to four times as long, reworking a raw draft than writing a raw draft, looking for fuzzy meaning, recasting sentences, combing out tangled flow that bores, confuses, and disrupts readers' reading and comprehension ease.

I've come to realize that there are such things as beginning, intermediate, and advanced writers. Beginning writers are mechanical style students, like grammar school writers. Intermediate writers are craft students, working on content and organization skills. Advanced writers are voice students. They develop a working facility with narrative distance and narrator and character voices. Winning writers are audience students. Writing for audience reading and comprehension ease is challenging and more than mere word choice or craft or voice. Yet the number one writing principle, bar none, is: facilitate reading and comprehension ease. Period.

Writing for an audience is about making intent and meaning appropriate to an audience's sensibilities, about making writing accessible and appealing. Fuzzy meaning fails at that and makes for static movement (static voice) from lacking causally directional, tension-filled, antagonistic flow. Or ACT: antagonism, causation, and tension; part of my mnenonic for dramatic writing features DIANE'S SECRET SPICED ACT*.

Words I look for as landmarks that call for recasting sentences, for example: Of, as, when, while, ever, never, always, usually, so, now, before, that, almost, mostly, most, foremost, seem, seems, seemingly, seems like, just, still, yet, which, but, however, although, though, since, after, once. That's a partial list. The full list runs into the hundreds. Then, also, there's word choices, diction, that is disproportionately simple or complex, awkward or imprecise, clumsy or distracting, yet still appropriately expressive. The main idea for me is to create a dynamic, accessible, appealing flow for readers' reading and comprehension ease.

* DIANE'S SECRET SPICED ACT: writing modes: Description, Introspection, Action, Narration, Emotion, Sensation, Summarization, Exposition, Conversation, Recollection, Explanation, Transistion; narrative features: Setting, Plot, Idea, Character, Event, Discourse; and drama features: Antagonism, Causation, and Tension.

Re: That's and Was's

Posted: September 10th, 2012, 8:41 am
by Sommer Leigh
I've gotten very good about not using the words "just" and "that". Usually when I'm writing I'm not even really paying attention to the precise word choices I make, but those two words have been beaten into my head so much that they send up a red flag from my fingers the minute I type them. You know how when you're typing and you *know* you've typed the wrong letter without having to check? It's that feeling. I still use "just" sometimes in my non-writerly writing. It's why I pay attention to it so much.

One of my biggest problems is my lack of conjunctions. This is very difficult for me when I am writing, especially in dialogue, because in my real life I do not use many conjunctions. I speak more formally than most people and falling into conversational English can sometimes require an edit or two. My husband picks up on this when he's reading a scene over for me and makes me rewrite it. His favorite thing to say to me is, "People don't say this. You say this, but everyone else doesn't." I was thrilled to write a sciency character into my latest WIP because I could feel confident that I would have at least one character I didn't have to rewrite dialogue for!

I do use more adverbs and adjectives in my first drafts than absolutely necessary. They are the first things I edit for.

Re: That's and Was's

Posted: September 10th, 2012, 12:20 pm
by AnimaDictio
I love that I'm starting to better understand poymath's posts. Either he's getting clearer or I'm getting smarter. Or both.

I don't have issues with "was", "that" or "just." Of course, I still find too many upon revision but not so many that they're tedious to remove.

One area where I'd like to improve is the art of writing that one detail that implies all the other details I'd include if brevity weren't a concern. I'm sure there's a term for this. What is it?

Re: That's and Was's

Posted: September 13th, 2012, 8:42 pm
by cheekychook
That wasn't that hard now was it? (See what I did there?) :D :o

Re: That's and Was's

Posted: September 14th, 2012, 12:26 am
by polymath
AnimaDictio wrote:I love that I'm starting to better understand poymath's posts. Either he's getting clearer or I'm getting smarter. Or both.
I believe and am thrilled there's growth for both of us on these our poets' journeys
AnimaDictio wrote:One area where I'd like to improve is the art of writing that one detail that implies all the other details I'd include if brevity weren't a concern. I'm sure there's a term for this. What is it?
I've most heard the term "the telling detail" for this. Writers who've elaborated on what that means to them have cited personal and public idiom and idiosyncrasy as telling details. They don't and I don't mean funny hat guy where the hat is just a meaningless ecentricity, but is symbolic and meaningful to the action, to character development, to the circumstances of the setting, the idea, and the events of the action, and is far removed by one or two telling details from stereotype or stock or archetype characters, or settings or voices for that matter.